37 quintessential experiences – in no particular order – every Fox Cities resident and visitor must have before their time here is up
Whether you were born and raised in the Fox Cities or are a recent transplant, there are certain things everyone who calls the 920 home must do before they leave. You aren’t a true (or honorary) Fox Citian until you’ve marked every one of these items off the list, so get cracking!
Discover Harry Houdini’s secrets at The History Museum at the Castle.
This Appleton museum in an old Masonic temple offers a variety of thought-provoking and entertaining exhibits, including AKA Houdini which explores the world renowned magician’s wizardry and brief life in Appleton.
Take an eclectic museum tour.
A few suggestions: Visit the Tayco Street Bridge Tower Museum in Menasha, one of the state’s smallest museums housed in a two-story bridge tender’s tower. Tour the Octagon House, home of the Neenah Historical Society and one of only a few octagon homes in the state. See historical artifacts from the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh at the Julaine Farrow Museum, including a display case filled with items swallowed by patients.
This world famous drink served at Appleton’s iconic Christmas-themed bar is basically a boozy milkshake for grownups. Vodka, dark creme de cacao, coffee liqueur and cream are blended with ice for a tasty cocktail that is perfect any time of year.
Attend a Native American powwow.
One of the Midwest’s largest powwows, the Oneida Nation hosts a weekend of singing, dancing, crafts and food. Enjoy traditional Native American food and crafts at the Woodland Indian Art Show and Market. Oneida Nation’s 45th annual powwow will be June 30–July 2 at the Norbert Hill Center Pow Wow Grounds in Oneida, Wisconsin.
Eat deep fried cheese curds–and other divine fair food–at the Outagamie County Fair.
A delicious rite of passage for every Fox Citian is devouring an order of deep fried cheese curds at the county fair (extra points if you wash it down with a Dairy Bar malt.) Hit up the 2017 fair July 25–30 at the fairgrounds in Seymour.
Go on a mural walk.
Downtown Appleton alone has more than a dozen murals for your viewing pleasure, many created by muralist and public art proponent Chad Brady. Hop on a bike and head north to Wisconsin Avenue to view even more, including the Love mural by artist Irineo Media. Pick up a mural walk map at Atlas Waterfront Cafe in Appleton to plot your course.
We love our festivals in the Fox Cities. Most recently, locals have embraced Bazaar After Dark, an open-air night market of which there will be three in 2017. First up is the event on April 29 held in downtown Kaukauna which will feature live music and performances, art and food vendors, family activities and the live creation of a public mural.
Local kayakers have ample opportunities to get out on the water. Newly-formed Fox River Kayaking Company will begin offering gear rentals and guided tours at four launch points this spring, including Little Chute, Appleton, Kaukauna and Doty Island. Owner Soroosh Werner Karamyar says kayaking is a great way to experience the river’s history and ecology, including wildlife like the “dolphin of the Fox River,” the carp. The locks officially open May 5, but things could get rolling earlier depending on weather. Visit Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway online for info on routes and paddle events.
See a local theater production.
From Neenah’s Riverside Players to the Kaukauna Community Players, local theatrical groups are plentiful in the Valley. This means there is no shortage of productions to see, especially during the summer months. Other groups include Attic Theatre, Freedom Area Community Theatre and Wolf River Theatrical Troupe.
Go to a taping of Polka, Polka, Polka at The Starlite Club.
Even if you don’t know the difference between Slovenian and Czech-style polka, it would be a crime not to experience the official state dance of Wisconsin in the heart of the Fox Valley. Kaukauna’s Starlite Club plays host to an array of polka bands whose performances (and ensuing dance frenzies) are often taped and aired on CW14’s Sunday morning polka music show, Polka, Polka, Polka. Your next opportunity to get in on the action is April 16 when the Valenta Orchestra takes the Starlite stage. First-timers shouldn’t be intimidated by the pros on the dance floor – just don’t get in their way.
Ride the trolley around downtown Appleton.
From June through September, this free trolley departs from the Valley Transit Center and makes a complete loop around downtown Appleton and the riverfront every 30 minutes, making stops along the way. Take the trolley to the Flag Day Parade, a show from the Heid Music Summer Concert Series, Art on the Town on Friday nights, or the Farm Market on Saturday mornings. Trolley runs Thursday and Friday evenings, and all day Saturday.
Hike at High Cliff.
High Cliff State Park is tucked into the northeast corner of Lake Winnebago in the town of Sherwood and is home to trails of different difficulty levels for the leisurely walker to the experienced hiker alike. Go for a hike in the afternoon and catch the perfect nature photo-op during the Golden Hour (the hour before sunset.) Watch the sunset from the Tower, and end the night with some ice cream from The Chubby Seagull.
Take in a Timber Rattlers game at Fox Cities Stadium.
Opening day for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a class ‘A’ affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, is April 8 and families throughout the Fox Cities can’t wait to welcome the 2017 season. On Wednesday Bang for Your Buck nights, attendees can enjoy $1 Cher-Make hotdogs, $1 Pepsi products and $1 domestic beers. The first one is set for April 12.
Catch the last bout of the home season on April 8 at Skaters Edge in Appleton when the All Stars take on the MedCity Mafia and the 920 Honeys faceoff with the Misfit Dolls. First-timers will appreciate the players who mill the crowd answering questions, since roller derby can be a confusing sport at first. Seating is limited, so bring your own chairs if you wish.
See a Broadway show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
Settling into one of Thrivent Financial Hall’s red, plush seats to see a Broadway show feels very “big city,” as does having a glass of wine waiting for you barside at intermission (just prepay before the show). This year catch Broadway hits like Finding Neverland, Mamma Mia! and Wicked, among others.
Farmers market season in the Valley is something to be celebrated. The Downtown Appleton Farm Market, the second largest market in the state, operates outdoors on College Avenue from June through October. Pick up fresh, seasonal produce, cheese, meats and indulge in the obligatory roasted corn – on the cob or in a cup – while you shop. Kaukauna and Neenah also host Saturday morning markets and Menasha holds one on Thursday afternoons. The very first Little Chute Village Market season will begin June 15 from 3–7 p.m. on the plaza next to the iconic windmill.
Get cheesy at the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival.
You know you’re in Wisconsin when parade goers receive cheese curds instead of candy – this has been known to happen at the Big Cheese Parade that takes place on Saturday morning as part of the three-day Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival. From cheese carving to a cheese curd eating contest, kick off June Dairy Month on June 2, 3 and 4 at Doyle Park in Little Chute.
So you think you can chicken dance? Prove it at Chickenfest, a community festival/fundraiser organized by the Kiwanis Club of Darboy. There is usually at least one chicken dance competition per night, among other things like live music, food (pick up a chicken dinner, by the plate or bucket), carnival games and rides. It all goes down June 22–24 at Darboy Community Park.
Tailgate at Lambeau Field.
For Green Bay Packer fans all over the world, tailgating at Lambeau Field on game day is a religious experience, whether you’re actually going to the game or not. The Tundra Tailgate Zone, located in the east parking lot outside the Oneida Nation Gate, features live music and prizes, and is free to the public.
Customize a beer at Lion’s Tail Brewery.
Have you ever selected your own hops to enliven a pint of pale ale? The CPA (Custom Pale Ale) at Lion’s Tail Brewery in Neenah puts the imbiber in the brewer’s seat through the modern technique of French Press dry-hopping. In other words, the hops steep in the beer right in front of you on the bar top. Choose from a variety of hops, steep for about 15 minutes then enjoy the freshest IPA you’ll ever have.
Take a spin on the Mile of Music bus in August.
It’s not a true music festival until you’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with sweaty festival-goers swaying to the beat of a live performance. At Appleton’s handcrafted Mile of Music fest, you can have this experience even while you’re on the go. Valley Transit provides free rides along College Avenue between State and Richmond Streets, Thursday through Saturday of the festival. The best part? Every loop features live performances by Mile of Music artists.
Make paper at the Paper Discovery Center.
The paper industry put the Fox Cities on the map and it continues to impact our local economy. Roll up your sleeves and learn the art of papermaking in the Purdy-Weissenborn Paper Lab at Appleton’s Paper Discovery Center. Stop in during regular museum hours and transform a wet sheet of pulp to a dried sheet of paper. A great activity for all ages.
See the spring sturgeon spawn in the Wolf River.
Every spring, anywhere from mid-April to early May, spectators gather along the Wolf River to witness the spawning ritual of the ancient sturgeon which first appeared about 136 million years ago. There are several prime viewing locations along the Wolf River including the Shawano Dam, Bamboo Bend in Shiocton and the Wolf River Sturgeon Trail west of New London. The sturgeon hotline provides daily recorded updates on conditions: 920-303-5444.
Take a walking tour of the grand homes on East Wisconsin and Forest Avenues built by Neenah’s earliest settlers. Legacy Park on Church Street still has part of the Glatfelter Mill stack on it and this public plaza tells the story of Neenah’s papermaking history. Visit the City of Neenah website to download a Neenah Historical Tour map.
Attend the nation’s oldest Flag Day parade.
Roughly 60,000 people gather at the Appleton Flag Day Parade to thank veterans and honor “Old Glory.” This year’s 67th annual parade will be held on Saturday, June 10 at 2 p.m. and will give special honor to the United State Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Spend your lunch break in Shattuck Park for a free outdoor concert.
Future Neenah’s Out to Lunch Concert Series kicks off June 8. The concerts, which take place 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. on Thursdays through August, feature a variety of live entertainment and a restaurant vendor of the week. They make the perfect midday break, if you can force yourself to return to the office, that is.
See cabbage fly at the World Champion Cabbage Chuck sponsored by St. Denis Catholic Church. Registered teams launch cabbage using their engineered machines, like air cannons and catapults, attempting to break the cabbage chucking world record. See the action at the 12th annual competition on Saturday, September 23 at Shiocton Lake Park, rain or shine.
Pay homage to our agricultural roots at a tractor pull.
The crowds, the noise, the adrenaline rush of experiencing the sheer power of a tractor’s engine – you can’t escape the area before you attend a real life tractor pull. The Mackville Nationals Truck & Tractor Pull (June 16-18) is one of the biggest. Weekend activities include live music, raffles, the “Mackville Market” flea market and a polka mass on Sunday morning.
Watch bald eagles at 1000 Islands Environmental Center.
Grab your binoculars to see the winter commune of eagles at 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna during the month of January, when temperatures are low. Because the Fox River never fully freezes, it makes prime fishing for eagles and prime viewing for us. Stop in at the Nature Center building and staff or volunteers will fill you in on the best viewing spots.
Chocolate is great, but it’s even better when you can put your own personal spin on it. Stop at Wilmar Chocolates in Appleton to custom build your own bar. Choose your chocolate flavor and up to four mix-ins from options like the tried-and-true (almonds, toffee chunks and caramel bits) to the eclectic (potato chips, sweet curry powder and pop rocks). Watch your creation being made Thursday–Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Experience a classic Wisconsin supper club.
Relish trays, muddled old fashioneds and cuts of meat the size of your head are just a few hallmarks of a legit Wisconsin supper club. And in the Fox Valley, our supper club game is strong. Heavy hitters like George’s Steakhouse (with live piano music on Friday and Saturday), Mark’s East Side (with an impressive selection of traditional German dishes) and Out-O-Town Supper Club (with a salad bar that is equal parts veggies, fluff salads and pickled delights) are just a few local favorites.
Milk a cow.
While you’re at it, kiss a pig, feed a goat and catch a chicken. Visitors can do all of the above during a visit to Mulberry Lane Farm in Hilbert. Spring is a great time to see all the baby animals born on the farm, which opens for the season May 3.
See an airshow at EAA AirVenture.
EAA AirVenture (July 24-30) at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh is the world’s greatest aviation celebration, drawing upwards of 550,000 aviation enthusiasts from more than 80 countries around the world. Even if aviation doesn’t typically float your boat, you can’t help but be impressed by the world’s best aerobatic pilots who come to Oshkosh to strut their stuff. Check the AirVenture website for daily show schedules.
PYO (pick-your-own) produce.
Whether it’s strawberries in June, apples in September or pumpkins in October, there are ample opportunities to get your hands dirty for a tasty cause. A few ideas: Oakridge Farms in Neenah offers strawberry and raspberry picking to the public during the short, but sweet season; PYO apples at Star Orchard in Kaukauna or Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard in Appleton; grab some pumpkins at Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in Kaukauna.
There’s something exhilarating about walking across a body of water in its solid state, particularly Lake Winnebago, the largest lake entirely within the state. A great chance to make the nine and a half mile trek across it is during the Walk Across Lake Winnebago fundraiser benefiting the Neenah Animal Shelter. Save the date for next year’s event, February 3, 2018.
Visit a lighthouse.
The lighthouse at Kimberly Point Park, nicknamed the Neenah Light, is a quintessential landmark and a great place to enjoy a respite while soaking in the history of the area. The lighthouse was first lit in 1945 and is still working today, illuminating Lake Winnebago for recreational boaters.
The Fox Cities Trestle Trail spans Little Lake Butte des Morts, from Fritse Park in the Town of Menasha to the City of Menasha near the Menasha Locks. Along the trail you will encounter the longest pedestrian bridge in Wisconsin – a 1,600-foot long, lighted lift bridge over the Menasha Lock. From the trail, loop through Gateway Plaza in Neenah to hop on the foot-operated dance chimes for a musical pit stop.
Explore the Maribel Caves.
The nooks, crannies and caves at Cherney Maribel Caves County Park make for great exploring. Some caves are open during park hours and others only during special tours, but all offer a glimpse into the geological history of the area. Make sure to bring a flashlight, wear comfortable shoes and don’t be afraid to get dirty.
Figure out the Fox River Oracle.
On the north end of the Oneida Street Bridge in Appleton sits a 15-foot-high, 32-foot-long dolomite and limestone sculpture by artist Dimitri Hadzi. Ever since the sculpture was dedicated in 1987, it’s been the subject of equal parts praise, criticism and confusion. Spend some time pondering the abstract artwork and come to your own conclusions on its meaning.
Cruise the Fox River Mall.
We aren’t called Wisconsin’s Shopping Place for nothing. Visitors travel by the bus-full to shop the Fox River Mall’s 130+ stores. Make sure to take an obligatory spin on the escalators at Macy’s, preferably while sipping an Orange Julius.
Walk through the gardens at The Paine Art Center.
Explore the historic estate of lumber barons Nathan and Jessie Paine, including the lush gardens that surround the property. The impressive gardens feature 20 outdoor “rooms” like the new Formal Garden inspired by romantic English country estates and the breathtaking Rose Garden with a central reflecting pool.
Climb the Rocket at Riverside Park.
Neenah’s Riverside Park is affectionately referred to as “Rocket Park” by locals referencing the huge rocket-shaped playground structure that is a landmark for both young and old. Turn the kids loose on the playground for hours of enjoyment and great photo opps. Just make sure to sneak in a quick climb for yourself.
There is no fighting winter in the Fox Cities. Residents learn from an early age that the best defense to snow and cold is to embrace it. With nearly 300 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails in Outagamie County alone, snowmobiling is a no-brainer way to do it. For snowmobile trail information and conditions, call 920-832-4790.
Organize a progressive Bloody Mary Sunday.
With so many stellar bloody mary offerings in the Valley, how can you drink just one? Make a morning of it by stopping at a few establishments. Bazil’s on College Avenue was awarded the best Absolut Vodka Bloody Mary in Wisconsin. Houdini’s Gastropub in Appleton offers unusual creations like the Oaxaca Bloody Maria with Cazadores reposado, chili-lime salt and fried avocado. Two of a Kind Bar and Grill in Dundas boasts the Ultimate Bloody with ridiculous garnishes like a cheeseburger and onion rings. (Please, Sunday Funday responsibly.)
Get lost on Lost Dauphin Road between De Pere and Wrightstown.
Lost Dauphin Road is but one of many scenic drives in the region. However, this stretch of road offers recreationists the best of both worlds – rolling countryside to the west, river-hugging water views to the east. Added bonus: legend states that the land the road is built on is the former home of the “Lost Dauphin,” uncrowned King Louis XVII, son of Marie Antoinette, and the rightful heir to the French Royal Crown.
Hang out on the CityDeck.
On those warm spring and summer days, Green Bay’s CityDeck is the place to be, whether it’s for a leisurely walk, catching up with friends over iced coffee from The Creamery or cooling off in the splashpad. The 1,400-foot boardwalk stretches along the east bank of the Fox River between the Main & Walnut St. bridges and plays host to community events like Yoga on the Deck and Friday’s on the Fox.
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